Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle

By Christopher Shields | Go to book overview
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9
The Homonymy of Being

9. 1
A FRAMEWORK FOR DISCUSSION

When he sought to explicate and defend Aristotle's conception of the homonymy of being in his seminal Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles,1 Franz Brentano quite reasonably focused initially on two passages of the Metaphysics. In the first passage, Aristotle claims:

Being is spoken of in many ways, but with respect to one source. For some things are called beings because they are substances; others ≪are called beings≫ because they are attributes of substance, others because each is a route toward substance: either destructions or privations or qualities or productive or generative of substance; ≪still others are called beings because they are≫ things spoken of in relation to substance, or negations of one of these or of substance. For this reason we say that even non-being is a non-being. ( Met. 1003b6-10)

In the second, Aristotle advances an evidently non-equivalent, more encompassing contention:

Being, spoken of simply, is spoken of in many ways, one of which was2 the accidental, another was the true (with non-being as the false), and beyond these there are the schemes of the categories (e.g. what ≪something is≫, quality, quantity, place, time, and if ≪being≫ signifies something else in this sort of way); and further beyond all these as in potentiality and actuality. ( Met. 1026a33-b2)

Brentano thought these passages came to the same thing,3 in as much as each carries a commitment to the same doctrine (cf. also Met. 1003a33-4, 1017a8-b9, 1028a10-31, 1051a34-b6). From each he elicited a fourfold homonymy of being: (i) accidental being as opposed to being in itself (on kata sumbebêkos as opposed to on kath' hauto); (ii) being as truth (on hôs alêthes); (iii) categorial being; and (iv) being in potentiality as opposed to being in actuality (on dunamei as opposed to on energeia(i)). He

____________________
1
Brentano 1862/ 1975.
2
Aristotle here refers back to the discussion of the mulitivocity of being in Metaphysics v. 7.
3
Brentano 1862/ 1975, 3-5.

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